Somewhat of a celebration for Kevin Durant, reaching the 10,000 career point mark at a younger age than anyone else but LeBron james, wasn’t going to happen. The Oklahoma City Thunder blew a win against the San Antonio Spurs, losing to a buzzer beater by Tony Parker who should have been guarded by Russell Westbrook, who was nowhere to be found.
Another season, and the same Westbrook – Durant thing is on the table, before we even get to the absence of James Harden. On a night in which Durant goes 9-18 and scores 23 points, it’s simply impossible that Russell Westbrook keeps taking ill-advised shot after bad shot before a terrible shot. His numbers? 6-21 from the field with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Instead of being more responsible due to the departure of James Harden, who shared and took over the burden of being the main ball handler, Westbrook decided the best way to compensate is just shoot more, think less when he’s with the ball.
Kevin Martin was relatively unselfish with his play, and was at his best when Durant drew two men on him (almost every time he drives to the basket) and set up for an open three pointer. Martin is one of the best shooters in the NBA when he doesn’t try to do to much on his own, and maybe a bench role might stick that in his mind. Scott Brooks has enough on his plate when it comes to over zealous shooters who don’t think too much about spreading the wealth.
And while in terms of points the Kevin Martin arrival doesn’t take away anything from the Nuggets (finished with 14 points on 4-10 from the field), it’s the balancing Westbrook’s playmaking that will take the early toll until the offense settles down with the major earthquake. Scott Brooks still believes he can change the mindset of Westbrook, and there are games when the most athletic point guard in the NBA suddenly looks like an actual point guard once again.
Another problem is his defense. In my book, someone this athletic can’t be this lazy of a defender. Sure, Westbrook thinks offense and how he can move forward in full power instead of how to cover his man. The Thunder’s defense is built around Perkins closing the paint and Ibaka a bit more in motion to be free to block open shooters.
But there’s a limit to everything, and for Westrbook to lose Tony Parker on the last play and hardly disturb him on the previous game tying three pointer is a bit too much. There’s being lazy on defense and there’s not playing defense. Guess which one Westbrook was.
Kevin Durant couldn’t believe they lost this one. He just stood beneath the basket and tried to realize how the Thunder, with a 3 points lead and 28.4 second to go, managed to lose the game. Pointing the finger at his teammate will be too easy. This was only the first game, one game in an 82 game season. But somehow, when they go down like that, against this kind of opponent, it always feels like something more. Durant will need a happier occasion to celebrate his next milestone.